One is repeatedly told that blood runs thicker than water, but that theory is put to test in the wickedly funny Kannada film Thithi, from first-time director Raam Reddy. The film’s powerful opening and closing shots are trained on a father and a son respectively – two men related by blood but who could not be more different from each other.
The father is the cantankerous Century Gowda (Singri Gowda), so named because he lives past 100. As he drops dead in the film’s opening sequence, the narrative revolves around his ‘thithi’ ceremony, the 11th day feast held to mourn his death. Century Gowda’s son is octogenarian Gadappa (Channegowda), a free spirit who roams the fields, sleeps under the skies and is addicted to Tiger Brandy. His reaction to his father’s death? “No big deal,” he shrugs.
Clearly there is no love lost between the two – a fact explained later in the film when Gadappa narrates a scandalous story that led to his estrangement from Century Gowda. Gadappa tells the story in flickering firelight to a spellbound audience, his matter-of-fact tone in contrast to his tragic tale. It’s one of the best scenes in a film that celebrates life and death in equal measure.
But Thithi isn’t just the tale of these two men. It also involves Gadappa’s materialistic son Thamanna (Thammegowda), who now wants to inherit Century Gowda’s agricultural land. Thamanna is willing to lie and cheat and bribe his way to get his inheritance, even if it means faking his own father’s death. Thithi is also the story of Thamanna’s son Abhi (Abhishek MN), a girl-crazy gallivant, determined to seduce a headstrong shepherdess. How the three generations of Gowdas – Gadappa, Thamanna and Abhi – fare in the 11 days leading up to Century Gowda’s thithi forms the basic story.
Bit by bit, Raam Reddy and his writer Eregowda, involve the entire village of Novekoppalu and its inhabitants, setting up this slice of life film with strong characters – like the firecracker female owner of a toddy shop, a henpecked good-for-nothing local, even the snow-haired village loon who dances in front of funeral processions.
Look carefully and you’ll notice the points Reddy wants to make – about family, materialism, desire, individuality, and the all-pervasive humor that laces life if we only look a little closely. Did I mention that the cast is full of non-actors, all locals from Novekoppalu village? You won’t guess from the way they emote…their casual, earthy language and their idiosyncrasies suck you right in.
I recommend that you do not miss Thithi. Raam Reddy’s debut is searingly honest, and yet so charming that its characters stay with you long after the lights come back on.